Lineups loom large for state tennis bids

CHAMPAIGN – Let the mind games begin.

One of the more interesting pieces of the boys' tennis sectional each spring – or girls' sectional each fall – is deciphering which way the sectional coaches will go when determining their lineups for the postseason.

Players must be entered in either singles or doubles. Each squad gets two entries in each competition. In a perfect world, all four of a squad's entries would reach state. (The top four finishers in each bracket advance to the state tournament.)

Here's the catch: When submitting their entries, coaches don't know how their rivals will choose to fill out their forms. Because some players are equally adept at singles or doubles, coaches have the option of putting them in one bracket or the other. There are myriad ways to produce the best lineup for a particular team, especially if that squad is trying to win the team title as well.

"It's a little bit of a battle of wits of who is going to go where," Centennial coach Don Waybright said.

Sometimes, the choice is simple and offers no drama. For example, Centennial's Mauricio Gonzalez – who on Saturday won the No. 1 singles competition at the Big 12 Conference tournament – is certain to be in singles. But beyond that, Waybright has some choices to make. (The deadline for submitting a team lineup online was Tuesday afternoon, and the sectional seed meeting is Wednesday night.)

He could choose to put Akshay Krishnamani and Jake Schilling – third at No. 1 doubles at the Big 12, edging Danville's Tyler Ellis and Ryan Dyar – in the doubles bracket, or he could split them up and put one in singles, partnering the other with someone else in the hopes of getting all three entries to state.

"I'm just guessing where everybody else is going to go," Waybright said. "I'm sure they're guessing (too). Sometimes it's easier for them because they think, 'Waybright's definitely going to go singles for Mauricio.' That's pretty much a given now. But in terms of what I'm going to do with Jake and Akshay ... sometimes I'm not even sure what I'm going to do myself."

In any event, Gonzalez and Decatur St. Teresa standout Patrick Kuhle likely will wage a close battle for the singles crown. And how that shakes out – plus all the potential lineup maneuverings available to each coach – could determine the team title, which shapes up as a dandy battle between Centennial, Danville and Champaign Central.

At the Big 12 meet, Danville had 56 points, Centennial 55 and Central 55.

Tennis is an individual sport by nature, but coaching could play a key role this weekend at the Urbana Sectional.

"I think it's going to be tight," Waybright said.

Until Wednesday night's seed meeting, that's all we know for certain.

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